Monday, June 18, 2012

Lovecraft 101 - The Terrible Old Man

The Terrible Old Man
The Terrible Old Man is perhaps one of the better early works of Lovecraft. It hardly connects to the Mythos except to introduce the fictional town of Kingsport. It is Lovecraft’s emergence into the crime genre and he pulls it off rather well. Painting a picture of a dark seedy town filled with unlikable characters who seek to prey on the seemingly unguarded fortunes of an old man no one likes having around.
Every kid had one of these old men growing up (whether they were real or just the workings of an active childhood imagination). There was always that one house with that solitary old man that no one talked to, and no one hardly saw. Even the normal everyday tasks of this mysterious stranger at the end of the block took on hints of the sinister. The terrible old man takes things a few steps further, as his lawn is decorated with archaic ritual stones and he is often spied through the window talking to objects floating in dusty old jars.
At this point I can’t help but to imagine a group of curious children peeking through the cracks of boarded up windows and catching sight of the disturbed old man talking to hideous creatures, preserved but not dead in vats of darkening formaldehyde. A sight that would forever etch itself into the impressionable psyche of the poor young children.
A group of criminals (sadly Lovecraft once again must paint us a picture that only immigrants can form such a vile group of individuals) take notice that the old man pays for his goods with silver and gold and not the usual US tender. They make a plan to steal his horded fortunes. But of course this being Lovecraft, the old man is not merely strange but that truly darker forces are at work in him.
You can read the full text here: HPL’sThe Terrible Old Man
Illustration by Jeff Powers © 2012

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